Atheism also constitutes form of religion

Freedom New Mexico

Godless atheists are at it again. They are organizing and making demands on the Army. Predictably, Mikey Weinstein, chairman and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, backs them to the hilt.

“There are only two groups who are still fair game to make fun of in this country: People who are overweight, and atheists. Overweight atheists have it particularly bad,” Weinstein said.

We once again find common ground with Weinstein, one month after a vicious battle over the right of Clebe McClary, a fundamentalist-Christian war hero, to speak at the Air Force Academy’s annual prayer luncheon.

At the Academy, the Cadet Free Thinkers Club — a group of atheists — has enjoyed membership in Special Programs in Religious Education (SPIRE). The atheist group should be treated no differently than any conventional religious organization on campus. If it wants to host a party, a concert or a speech, it should come under the same standards as a Catholic, Jewish or Protestant club. The need for government neutrality, regarding religious content, formed the basis for our support of McClary’s talk. His beliefs, offensive to some, were unlawful rationale for censorship.

Typical military atheist groups are not recognized by the government, meaning they meet off base in private homes and bars. Unlike traditional religious organizations, they have difficulty sponsoring or advertising activities on base.

The battle for recognition has culminated at Fort Bragg, an Army base in North Carolina. An organization known as MASH — Military Atheists and Secular Humanists — wants recognition as a “faith” group. The Associated Press reports that success by MASH could set positive precedent for about 20 other military atheist organizations that also want faith-group status.

“Their history is one of loneliness and disenfranchisement,” said Weinstein, a Jew who prays in Hebrew three times a day.

If the groups fill out forms properly, this should be a no-brainer. Grant them the status they seek and allow them to sponsor events on base. They are faith groups. They organize around their beliefs pertaining to God — their faith that he does not exist. From the perspective of a government that can make no law respecting the “establishment” of religion, these faith-based organizations should be identical to Campus Crusade for Christ. If authorized to discriminate, it’s easy to foresee a day when government leaders decide Catholics or Jews are not legitimate. It has happened before in this country.

Don’t settle for our opinion about the need to view atheism as religion. Go with a decision by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which decided in 2005 that a Wisconsin prison violated the First Amendment religious liberties of an atheist prisoner. The convict wanted to host atheist study sessions, just as other prisoners held prayer meetings, but wardens forbade him.

“Atheism is religion, and the group that he wanted to start was religious in nature even though it expressly rejects a belief in a supreme being,” stated the court.

To reject God requires belief, just as accepting God requires belief. And what is religion in the eyes of an objective state? It is organized belief.

In Torcaso v. Watkins, the Supreme Court ruled that religion means more than belief in a supreme being. The court defined “secular humanism,” a catch phrase for godless beliefs, as a religion.

Government must not sanction any religious organization. It must facilitate all religious organizations, and police them for abuse — including abusive proselytizing by atheists. Government must facilitate equally the reasonable needs of those who worship Jesus and those who worship flying spaghetti